These professionals worked hard at their game, trained to perfection and when all the work was done, they left the rest to superstition to get the job done! Some players and coaches followed the most bizarre pre-match rituals on and off the pitch and swore by their efficacy. Idiosyncrasies that worked for them once and became rituals, to be followed without question or logic. Here are some superstitions our soccer greats took recourse to in the hope that lady luck would smile their way…
Les Bleus were superstitious about goalkeeper Fabien Barthez’s bald pate! During the 1998 World Cup, captain Laurent Blanc kissed the keeper on the head and France went on the win! And with that a ritual was born, with Barthez offering up his head for the habitual kiss before each match, often to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’, which was blasted in the locker room to get them into winning mode! And then, there’s coach Raymond Domenech’s controversial reliance on astrology. He is said to have chosen players and put his team together based on their sun signs! This won Domenech his fair share of criticism from the players’ who’d been left out simply because they were born on the ‘wrong’ date or time of the month!
A rather common practice among soccer players is to wear the same underwear for games! Colombian Rene Higuita admits that his underwear had to be blue during match days. It all started in the 80s, when his team couldn’t beat their rival team, no matter what they did. So, a fortune teller was consulted, who announced a curse had been placed on them and could be remedied if all players wore blue underpants while playing! They did and it worked, winning them the Copa Libertadores! Since then, blue undergarments became a must for Higuita!
Brazilian player and coach Mario Zagallo is known for his unshakable faith in the number 13. Since Saint Anthony’s Day is celebrated on the 13th of June, all things 13 were preferred by Zagallo. He married on his patron saint’s day, lived on the 13th floor, saw Brazil through 13 World Cup victories and aided his post-op recovery from stomach cancer by visiting the saint’s shrine all of 13 times! Personal preferences are one thing, but on-pitch peculiarities sometimes bordered on vulgarity! Argentinean goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea is a case in point. While defending penalty shots, he was known to urinate on the pitch! Now that could easily qualify as a ‘pe(t)e peeve’!
Moving on to England’s squad, striker Gary Lineker refused to shoot at the goal while warming up. He was convinced that he was saving up goals for the match! And if he failed to score in the first half of the game, he would promptly trot to the dressing room at halftime and wear a fresh soccer shirt. If goals evaded him for a lengthy period of time, it meant a trip to the hairdresser! Another legend, Paul Ince, always made sure he was the last player to leave the dressing room and only wore his soccer deer hunting t shirt while running onto the pitch!
These are some superstitions and there are plenty more… Some extremely funny, others seriously unbelievable!
write by Wendy Carter